Gordon Grdina's Box Cutter

New Rules for Noise (Spool)

Box Cutter is well-named: the multifaceted Gordon Grdina’s “jazz” band is a small, sharp unit, capable of intricately detailed air-carving, but just as likely to offer knife-edged excursions into abstract terrain. Here, though, the focus is primarily on concise, melodic playing, no matter what this record’s title might imply.

Two benign deities preside over New Rules for Noise, in the form of saxophonist Ornette Coleman and clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre. In fact, if guitarist Grdina has a fault, it’s that he sometimes hews too closely to their templates; at first, I mistook his original “Burning Bright” for a Coleman composition, while the waltzlike “Yellow Spot into the Sun” would be quite at home on one of Giuffre’s pioneering trio recordings from the early 1960s.

But don’t get me wrong: I love Coleman’s tunes and Giuffre’s records, and Grdina shares their ability to mix singable melodies with freer forms. His elegant writing is beautifully interpreted by this unit, which features clarinetist Franí§ois Houle, bassist Karlis Silins, and drummer Kenton Loewen—and the band proves it can rock out too, on the spiky “Plan of Attack”. That track is modern jazz for metalheads, and no less compelling than this disc’s quieter delights.

Gordon Grdina’s Box Cutter plays the Ironworks on Monday (June 23).